It was things he said, and the way he said ’em: like, a chilly morning: “I tell ya, ya step outside, it gets yer attention, do-n’t it?” Or, his drive in from Middleburg: “Traffic at Gilberts Corner was jus’ outta this world.” And, the ubiquitous: “The cause o’ the fire – as they say – is under investigation.” But food-talk was the holy of holies, in which Paul possessed an almost otherworldly talent: On deep fried turkey: “Like sittin’ down to a meal with Jesus.” His favorite snack: “Chocolate’s one of the basic food groups.” And, his beloved donuts: “We need some Krispy Kreme.” Paul was perfectly suited for local radio, because- most of all – he just plain loved talking to- and about – people.
I had the pleasure to work with Paul Draisey during the 10 years I spent as News Director at Wage Radio in Leesburg. Now, I was an outsider from Minnesota, but I bonded with the locality- and Paul – to me – embodied “Old Loudoun County.” It sounds like hyperbole, but he really did seem to know everything about everybody in this special little place. It wouldn’t have surprised me if he brought in Sheriff Taylor of Mayberry. I did feel a bit overwhelmed by this Yogi the Bear personality, but my instincts said: “You can’t beat this guy at his own game – so join forces.” And, the more Paul and I worked together, the more our personalities kind of formed a “Marma-duke and the Imp” scenario. We had our differences, but we bridged any gaps – and over time – our on-air trust solidified.
One time Paul asked me- live, on-air- against all unwritten rules of broad-casting, “Why did it fall?” My one-word reply: ”Gravity.” He looked at me – a blank stare for a tenth of a millisecond- then he appeared to be expecting a child – then we both broke another rule: don’t laugh on-air. We both chose to enjoy the unexpected – and then proceeded to the next topic.
Moments like these were common-place with Paul.
I pride myself on “making my own weather,” – but Paul was past Master at the craft. The only instance I ever saw him “down,” was the day former County Administrator (and one of Paul’s best buddies) Phil Bolen passed away. But- professional that he was – Paul rebounded, “cracked the mike” and shared that sad news bulletin with commiseration. The listener always felt that Paul was on their side. And, from sharing the studio with him, I can attest to that. That’s partly why people didn’t just like Paul – they loved Paul. It was a near mania. I’m the guy who answered the phone – I should know. Correct that. I answered only when Paul was too busy. Because he always wanted to know – who was calling – what did they want – what did they know. It wasn’t selfish – he just wanted to know. When you’re working with a force of nature like that, you just relax and enjoy it.
And then came September 11th. Paul normally signed off at nine every morning, but on that day, I think he stayed on the air, live, until about 1:00 p.m. – we interviewed everybody: Sheriff Steve Simpson, Mayor BJ Webb, Congressman Frank Wolf, Fire and Rescue personnel, you name it. You would have had a very serious wrestling match on your hands trying to get Paul off-mike that morning.
This story could go on for hours and days and weeks and months – and, as you know – it has a very sad ending. No one feels this more than I. Thinking of that empty chair in that abandoned building off Wage Drive in Southwest Leesburg where we both worked all those years – not only is he not there – he’s nowhere to be found. It gives me a very lost sort of feeling. He was the guy I told the news to – often the first one to ever hear of breaking stories – moments before going on-air. He especially liked the little details associated with things. He even appreciated my coffee- not to mention my barbecued chicken. I’ll cry for him, often.
Paul Draisey, called by some “The Voice of Loudoun County,” died in April at the age of 55. He lived in Middleburg.